Top-ranked (Class 4A) West Des Moines Valley continues to hit its stride just in time for the postseason.
Fort Dodge is just trying to keep the wheels from coming off with the substate round only five days away.
The Tigers completed an unbeaten campaign and wrapped up the outright CIML Iowa Conference crown with a 49-10 victory over the defending league champion Dodgers here Friday.
The first regular-season win for Valley (9-0 overall, 5-0 in the conference) over FDSH since 2008 came in convincing fashion, as the Tigers piled up 539 yards of total offense in defeating a fifth straight opponent by at least 39 points.
Meanwhile, the injuries continued to mount for Matt Miller's Dodgers (3-6, 2-3). Already playing without senior tailback, linebacker and punter Dillon Christensen, Fort Dodge lost standout receiver Isaac Lehman (broken collarbone) and linebacker Jalen Mosley (dislocated shoulder) to pour salt on the wounds of Senior Night.
''A few weeks ago, we were in decent shape on the injury front,'' Miller said. ''But the last three games have been really tough on us. We're as beat up with some of our best players at the end of the year as we've been in a while.
''This league takes its toll on you. Even when we beat Ames and Mason City, they were physical, hard-hitting games. Waukee, Marshalltown and Valley have taken a lot out of us. But it is what it is. We have to get off the mat now and prepare for Wednesday.''
The Dodgers won't have their official substate assignment until early this morning, but it will likely be a road contest against No. 4 Ankeny. The Tigers, meanwhile, clinched the top seed on the west side in 4A.
''They're as good as advertised,'' Miller said. ''You can't truly appreciate how strong they are up front until you see it at game speed. For as solid as their (tailbacks) and special teams are, they get it done along the lines: that's a typical Valley championship-caliber squad, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they won (a fifth state title since 2003) next month.''
Fort Dodge trailed only 7-0 after the first quarter, but the Tigers opened the floodgates with four rushing touchdowns in the second period alone. Senior Trey Lewis (15 carries, 133 yards, two scores) and sophomore Tyus Mason (11 for 88 and three TDs) took turns running circles around the Dodger defense, as Valley went for 311 yards on the ground.
''Lewis and Mason can just stop on a dime, shift gears and slip through any hole,'' Miller said. ''You put those little guys (Lewis is 5-foot-7 and Mason is 5-9) behind their huge offensive line (with three starters 6-4 or taller) and they become difficult to stop to say the least.''
Senior Sam Edwards threw for 173 yards in his last start at Dodger Stadium. Edwards moved into fifth on the career passing charts at FDSH and second on the single-season list (1,993 yards).
Senior Cole Jarrard scored the lone Dodger touchdown, while senior Ty Littzen booted a 24-yard field goal. Junior Keegan Jones intercepted a pass, and juniors Anthony Credit and Gavin Thomas combined to record the lone Fort Dodge sack.
Valley dressed 87 players - all but one was either a junior or senior - for Friday's contest, while Fort Dodge suited up 45.
''I told our kids they have nothing to hang their heads about,'' Miller said. ''They were down 35-0 at half but came out with a lot of heart and pride after that. They're not going to give up no matter what.
''We'll be ready to go this week: it's the fourth straight substate berth for this program, and our guys have done some really good things this season and in their careers here. We wiped the slate clean when we started conference, and we'll do the same thing with the playoffs.''
Contact Eric Pratt at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org